Starbucks fired NJ barista for refusing to wear 'Pride' shirt, lawsuit claims
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A New Jersey woman was fired by Starbucks for refusing to wear a “Pride” T-shirt because of her religious beliefs, a lawsuit alleges.
Betsy Fresse, a Christian from Newark, who started working as a Starbucks barista in December 2015, alleged in a suit filed last week that she was “assured” by managers that her faith wouldn’t be an issue after transferring to a store in Glen Ridge early last year.
But months later, during a meeting in a manager’s office in June 2019, Fresse noticed a box of Starbucks’ Pride shirts on a desk. She then asked if she’d be required to wear one, which would be “tantamount to forced speech” because she believes marriage is defined by the Bible as between “one man and one woman only,” the lawsuit states.
“Mrs. Fresse hold the personal religious belief that all people need Jesus,” the filing continues. “Mrs. Fresse believes that every Christian is called to love and treat everyone with respect and compassion, irrespective of their religious or other beliefs.”
Fresse’s manager told her she wouldn’t have to wear the shirt at work — only for a district manager to tell her in late August that her employment had been terminated, according to the lawsuit filed on Nov. 19 in U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey.
A notice of separation from Starbucks cited in the filing said Fresse was fired for violating the company’s “core values” and that she said her colleagues “need Jesus” when she was given the T-shirt.
“We enforce these values when we embrace inclusion and diversity, and welcome and learn from people with different backgrounds and perspectives,” the termination notice read.
Fresse’s suit, which alleges unlawful discrimination, is seeking backpay, punitive damages and payment of her attorneys’ fees. It also seeks a permanent injunction preventing Starbucks from “failing to accommodate the sincerely held religious beliefs” of employees.
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Reached for comment Thursday, a rep for Starbucks said Fresse’s allegations were baseless.
“We are very aware of the claims by Mrs. Fresse, which are without merit and we are fully prepared to present our case in court,” a Starbucks spokesman told The Post. “Specific to our dress code, other than our green apron, no part of our dress code requires partners to wear any approved items that they have not personally selected.”
This report originally appeared in the New York Post.
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